With a decreasing number of white, lesser-educated and older voters, the US’s Republican Party could pay a long-term price for the candidacy of Donald Trump, argues Bette Browne
EVEN if Republican Donald Trump doesn’t win the US presidency, the question arises as to what kind of America he might leave in his wake?
What will happen to all that anger among the record 13 million supporters who made him their presidential nominee in Republican primaries — will they be left to feel abandoned once again by Washington or will they find a home in the far right corners of the Tea Party or within some other political grouping?
The problem for America is not simply that Trump’s followers number in the millions, it’s the ways in which he has radicalised them, tapping into their fears and insecurities and encouraging them to demonise those with whom they disagree or those who look different from them.
He has taken ownership of their grievances to fuel his rise to power, frequently replacing normal political discourse with seething anger, violent intolerance and open racism in a way that modern American has never before witnessed.
The country certainly has a long way to go in improving race relations, even after the historic election of its first black president. Yet, it has travelled a long distance from the eras of lynching and segregating African-Americans or from the nativism that put up “no Irish need apply” signs in workplaces.
But in a country that has since embraced its immigrant roots and welcomed the stranger, the pernicious rise of Trumpism in this election could endanger much of that progress.
None of the anger and racism he has fuelled will fade away even if Trump himself does so in November. Some Democrats have opined that a wide margin of victory for Hillary Clinton could help squash Trump’s movement.
But that attitude, which smacks of political arrogance, is both naive and dangerous.
Trump’s supporters and their economic and social grievances cannot be dismissed but must be addressed both by Democrats and Republicans if they want a more equitable and stable society.
Otherwise, these wounds will fester and infect the American body politic and, in the long run, will mean victory for Trump’s ideas or for far rightist politicians who follow in his wake, as they inevitably will, if a vacuum is allowed to exist for them to fill.
Already, the birth of Trumpism has sparked the emergence once again in Louisiana of the racist Ku Klux Klan.
Today, another former KKK Grand Wizard in Louisiana, David Duke, says he has been inspired by Trump’s example to run for the US Senate.
“I’m overjoyed to see Donald Trump and most Americans embrace most of the issues that I’ve championed for years,” Duke said last month when he launched his senate campaign.
Trump has also split the Republican party with many refusing to back his candidacy and others barely tolerating it.
The most senior elected Republican leader, House of Representative Speaker Paul Ryan, for example, has called some comments by Trump “textbook racism” but has, nevertheless, rowed in behind him for the sake of the party.
But if Trump’s White House bid fails, the fallout for the Republican party could upend it for a decade and, amid such disarray, the party could not be relied on either to soothe Trump’s supporters or to try to woo them back into the fold.
The party used to be about tapping mainstream conservative ideas like tax cuts and repealing government regulations, but under Trump it’s become more and more about blaming economic and social woes on immigrant groups — even as he promotes an agenda that is seen as primarily helping wealthy families like his own.
If he becomes president, for example, Trump has promised to repeal the 40% US inheritance tax. This means that his family and other billionaire families like them would stand to gain billions — in Trump’s family’s case the figure they would save has been put at up to $7 billion. So even if he wins he may do little to better the lot of his followers.
In addition, Trump’s primary constituency has already become a minority. There are probably no longer enough angry white people in America to elect Trump, no more than there were to defeat Barack Obama.
On the contrary, Obama won the 2008 election because he got out the African- American vote and also won the support of the surging Hispanic demographic that is changing the face of American politics, even as the Republican party standard bearer goes out of his way to insult such voters.
And, as its members have grown whiter, older and less educated than the general population, the party has lurched to the far right by bowing to the Tea Party forces in recent years. Thus, it lost its chance not alone to find a niche in the changing America but even to maintain its conservative base.
Having allowed itself to be highjacked by the Tea Party, it became easy prey for a demagogue like Trump. Now the question is if he brings the party down with him how will it recover and where, in the meantime, will the Trumpists find a home.
The only way this anger can be calmed is if the Democratic and Republican parties painstakingly work to address the concerns of many of Trump’s supporters about jobs, wages and social isolation.
But even if the Democratic party wins the White House, it too faces its own problems.
Some say that in so ardently wooing the progressive supporters of Clinton’s one-time rival Senator Bernie Sanders the party risks the danger of further alienating its more traditional supporters.
If both parties do decide to work together for post-election solutions to heal the country that would still require Trump to respect the outcome of the poll and work with the victor. None of which seems like Trump’s style at the moment.
Indeed, some are beginning to suggest that the New York businessman may not even want to be president any more.
Some polls are telling him he could lose badly to Clinton, that narrative goes, so now he is concentrating on being more outrageous by the day merely to boost the Trump brand.
Others, however, say he wants win badly to push his economic agenda and that’s also why embarrassed republicans are sticking with him. But it remains a very dangerous scenario for the country if he fails in his bid and his millions of supporters are left twisting in the wind by the political establishment of both parties.
At the end of the day, this election is going to be about more than the ambitions of two candidates. It’s ultimately going to be about endangering or preserving the very fabric of American democracy.
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